SOUTH AFRICA: The Sharpeville Massacre

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Mourning Day. Afraid of civil war and preparing for a showdown, the government canceled all leaves for the 20,000 members of the South African police, placed the members of auxiliary white defense forces on a stand-by alert. Indoor or outdoor meetings of more than twelve persons were declared illegal (exception: a political rally of 40,000 addressed by Prime Minister Verwoerd, who complained that most of the unanimous outside criticism came from "the ducktails of the political world .... Good and nice people are mostly quiet"). African political organizations were outlawed. Robert Sobukwe and eleven of his Pan-African aides surrendered and were, jailed. Albert Luthuli, leader of the more moderate African National Congress, was already under house arrest. Both organizations proclaimed a "day of mourning" for the dead (the police released the bodies a few at a time so that there could be no mass funeral). A work boycott by Africans was ordered, and strong-arm squads called "the Spoilers" walked the streets to keep Africans off the job. Cape Town docks, loading 20 ships, were crippled by a walkout of stevedores. On the Johannesburg exchange, gold stocks fell for a paper loss of $250 million in four days. Throngs of white South Africans, fearing disaster, lined "up for emigration data at the, information offices of Canada and Australia.

At week's end came the first giving of ground. South Africa's commissioner of police curtly announced that to relieve the "tremendous tension," police would no longer ask Africans to show—or arrest them for failure to carry—the hated passbooks. It represented the first major retreat by the government since the Nationalists won power at the polls twelve years ago. But just when everyone was about to credit Verwoerd's administration with coming to its senses, Defense Minister Francois Erasmus said that the police decision was "strictly temporary" until the "situation quieted." South Africa's course was still set for disaster.

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